KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukrainians dug in to defend the eastern city of Sievierodonetsk as it came under heavy shelling from Russian forces attempting to take the industrial zone known as Donbass.
On Monday in Tokyo, President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida joined in condemning Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. Earlier in his Asia trip, Biden signed legislation giving Ukraine an additional $40 billion in US support for its defense against the Russian attack.
The shelling increased in ferocity as Russian and Ukrainian forces fought along a 551-kilometre (342-mile) corner of Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland, driving residents to flee.
“We haven’t been able to see the sun for three months. We are almost blind because we have been in darkness for three months,” said Rayisa Rybalko, who fled to Ukrainian-held Kiurakhove from the village of Novomykhailivka near the front line in Donetsk. “The world should have seen that.”
She and her family moved into a bomb shelter at a school a day before their home was destroyed in a bombing. They were waiting for an evacuation bus after another villager drove them to Kiurakhove.
His son-in-law Dmytro Khaliapin said heavy artillery was pounding the village. “Houses are being destroyed,” he said. “It’s a horror.”
Polish President Andrzej Duda traveled to Kyiv on Sunday to support Ukraine’s European Union aspirations and addressed the Ukrainian parliament, receiving a standing ovation when he thanked lawmakers for letting him go express themselves where “the heart of a free, independent and democratic Ukraine beat”.
Ukraine does not have to give in to pressure from Russia and elsewhere in Europe, Duda said. “I want to say clearly: only Ukraine has the right to decide its future. Only Ukraine has the right to decide for itself.
Duda, a right-wing populist leader who clearly favored former US President Donald Trump over Biden in the 2020 election, nevertheless said that “kyiv is the place where it is clear that we need more America in Europe, both in the military and in this economic dimension.
Poland has become an important ally of Ukraine, hosting millions of Ukrainian refugees and becoming a gateway for Western humanitarian aid and weapons and a transit point for some foreign fighters who have volunteered to fight. Russian forces.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called Duda’s visit, his second since April, “a historic opportunity not to lose such strong relations, built in blood, by Russian aggression.” All this so as not to lose our State, so as not to lose our people.
Zelenskyy urged the 27 EU members to speed up his country’s application for membership. It is to be discussed at a summit in Brussels at the end of June.
On the battlefield, fierce town-by-town fighting continued as Russian troops tried to expand territory that Moscow-backed separatists have held since 2014 in Donbass, which includes Lugansk and Donetsk.
Sievierodonetsk is the main city under Ukrainian control in the province of Luhansk, whose governor Serhii Haidai accused the Russians of having “simply intentionally tried to destroy the city…to engage in a scorched earth approach”.
Haidai said the Russians had occupied several towns and villages in Lugansk after 24-hour indiscriminate shelling and were concentrating forces and weapons there, bringing in troops from Kharkiv in the northwest, Mariupol in the south and from the interior. of Russia.
The only operating hospital in Sievierodonetck has only three doctors and supplies for 10 days, he said.
The Ukrainian military said Russian forces failed to attack Oleksandrivka, a village outside the city.
Ukraine’s parliament voted on Sunday to extend martial law and mobilize its armed forces for the third time, until August 23. were being killed, seemingly daily, in the east.
In a morning report from the General Staff, Russia said it was preparing to resume its offensive on Sloviansk, a town in Donetsk province that saw heavy fighting last month after troops withdrew from Moscow from kyiv.
The conflict is not limited to eastern Ukraine. Powerful explosions were heard early Monday in Korosten, about 160 kilometers (100 miles) west of kyiv, the city’s deputy mayor said. It was the third consecutive day of apparent attacks in Zhytomyr district, Ukrainian news agencies reported.
A Ukrainian court was due to deliver a verdict on Monday for the first Russian soldier to be tried for an alleged war crime. The 21-year-old sergeant, who admitted shooting a Ukrainian man in the head in the Sumy region on February 28, could face life in prison if convicted.
Ukrainian Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova said her office was pursuing war crimes cases against 41 Russian soldiers for offenses including bombing civilian infrastructure, killing civilians, raping and looting.
In other developments, the first lady of Ukraine, Olena Zelenska, gave a rare interview to the national television channel ICTV alongside her husband and said that she had hardly seen him since the start of the war.
“Our family, like all Ukrainian families, is separated now,” she said, adding that she spoke to him mainly by phone.
“Unfortunately we can’t sit together, have dinner with the whole family, talk about everything,” she said.
Zelenskyy called the interview itself a “date on the air” and the couple, who have two children, joked in front of reporters.
“We are joking, but we are really waiting, like everyone else, to be reunited, like all the families in Ukraine who are separated now, waiting for their relatives and friends who want to be together again,” he said.
Becatoros reported from Donetsk. Associated Press reporters Yuras Karmanau in Lviv, Andrea Rosa in Kharkiv and other AP staff from around the world contributed.
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